Forging the Shield: Eisenhower and National Security for the 21st Century.
From 26 through 28 January 2005, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at the National Defense University conducted a symposium entitled "Eisenhower and National Security for the 21st Century" at Fort McNair, Washington, DC. That symposium produced Forging the Shield, a collection of essays written by a broad-based and internationally recognized group of individuals and edited by Dennis E. Showalter, professor of history at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colorado. According to Showalter, the authors capture the unique nature of the Eisenhower presidency by revealing the fingertip sophistication of Eisenhower as commander in chief as well as his ability to comprehend the complex relationship between national security and the vulnerable infrastructures of modern societies. As a consequence, their efforts enhance our overall understanding of Eisenhower's presidency by highlighting his shortcomings as well as his successes. Ultimately, in Showalter's estimation, this assessment demonstrates that in the 1950s, Eisenhower "was as president the right man in the right spot" (p. 5).
Alex Roland, professor of history at Duke University, focuses on Eisenhower as policy maker in a general discussion about the president's approach to lobbying efforts by scientists, congressmen, businessmen, and officers of the military services or, as the president referred to them, the "military-industrial complex." Roland's essay, "The Grim Paraphernalia: Eisenhower and the Garrison State," sets the stage for three chapters on the administration's efforts to deal with this phenomenon. "Clan-destine Victory: Eisenhower and Overhead Reconnaissance in the Cold War" by R. Cargill Hall, chief historian emeritus of the National Reconnaissance Office; "Eisenhower and the NSA: An Introductory Survey" by David A. Hatch, National Security Agency historian; and "The Invisible Hand of the New Look: Eisenhower and the CIA" by Clayton D. Laurie, historian of the Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, provide insightful "must-reading" for Airmen. Hall describes two of the administration's greatest achievements--high-altitude aerial and space reconnaissance of the Soviet Union--and the ways that these twin technologies contributed to the end of the Cold War. Hatch reveals Eisenhower's behind-the-scenes, proactive involvement with communications intelligence and its enhancement of the agency's ability to deliver concise, clear evidence with definitive conclusions. Laurie analyzes the administration's expanded use of paramilitary operations, espionage, and political action as a substitute for larger conventional military forces whose use anywhere risked superpower confrontation and a third, potentially atomic, world war. In offering how similar achievements in the future may contribute to our national security in the twenty-first century, each of these authors combines a solid foundation of Eisenhower's past presidential achievements with a peek at what might be needed in the future. These are essential elements for today's Airmen if they wish to understand their past while they shape technological and interagency contributions for tomorrow's world.
Roger D. Launius, chair of the Division of Space History at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, and Capt John W. Yaeger, USN, retired, director of institutional research at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, discuss aspects of Eisenhower's long-term vision. In "Eisenhower and Space: Politics and Ideology in the Construction of the U.S. Civil Space Program," Launius suggests that, more than perhaps any president in the Cold War era, Eisenhower had a formal strategy for defeating the Soviet Union. Consequently, the president's strategic vision did more to establish conditions for success than any other single set of decisions during that 40-year conflict. In what might be called a preemptive strike to prevent a disruption of his strategy, Eisenhower transformed the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, defining the agency with a limited mission that never sought to make it the "miracle solution to all current difficulties" that aggressive space advocates wanted (p. 153). Yaeger's "Eisenhower and Joint Professional Military Education" explains how the president nurtured a system of professional military education, giving our armed forces an intellectual as well as an operational framework that has endured well after the Cold War. Similarly, University of California professor Gregg Herken's " 'Not Enough Bulldozers': Eisenhower and American Nuclear Weapons Policy, 1953-1961" examines yet another aspect of the president's long-term vision. Herken details how Eisenhower and his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, presided over the most rapid and dramatic growth of America's nuclear arsenal, setting the course for a unique 50-year nuclear weapons policy. During his administration, the nation's nuclear stockpile grew from 1,750 to approximately 23,000 weapons (p. 85). Along with an increase in the number of weapons came dramatic growth in their nominal yield: from the 20-kiloton atomic bombs, the original mainstay of the arsenal, came the multimegaton thermonuclear weapon. Though believing that nuclear war would be an unprecedented catastrophe, the president and his secretary of state recognized the necessity of preparing for all military contingencies, even those they disliked. Staying the course rather than reacting to the whims of change, working in a joint and interagency environment rather than attempting a single-service or single-agency solution, and embracing the many exigencies of a volatile world rather than preparing for only a few are still sound principles for our nation's future military leadership.
Sergei N. Khrushchev, Senior Fellow at the Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies, provides a unique international understanding of Eisenhower's foreign policy in "Reflections on Eisenhower, the Cold War and My Father." The essays of Saki R. Dockrill, chair, Contemporary History and International Security, Department of War Studies, King's College, University of London; Allan R. Millett, Major General Raymond E. Mason Jr. Professor of Military History, Ohio State University; and Qiang Zhai, professor of history at Auburn University-Montgomery, create a portrait of Eisenhower as international statesman in an era of global crisis and confrontation. Sergei's remembrances of his father's attitudes towards Eisenhower are insightful. Although younger Soviets, like Sergei, might have believed that the election of a general as our president sent a clear signal that the United States was preparing for war, his father, Nikita Khrushchev, did not. To older Soviets, Eisenhower was an honest man beside whom they had fought in World War II. He had not stolen victory from Gen Georgi K. Zhukov when Hitler left the gates to Berlin open to American forces. "We can deal with these people," the older Khrushchev believed (p. 8). Nevertheless, the Soviet Union was not as strong as the United States, and it was his responsibility to conceal that weakness from America. In "Eisenhower's Methodology for Intervention and Its Legacy in Contemporary World Politics," Dockrill discusses Eisenhower's approach to intervention and its outcome, examining the ideas behind the president's grand strategy for the Cold War and the relationship between the perceived threat and the nation's security. Utilizing the competition of ideas and ideology, intelligence gathering, covert operations, and proxy battles in the Third World, Eisenhower's New Look doctrine combined the unity, not the conformity, of the Western alliance with limited mobilization, emphasis on American nuclear deterrence, use of allied ground forces, and "all feasible diplomatic, political, economic and covert operations" to deal with the Soviets (p. 24). In "Eisenhower and the Korean War: Cautionary Tale and Hopeful Precedent," Millett examines how the Korean War fit into Eisenhower's vision of a proper national-security policy in an era of Cold War competition with the Soviets. For Millett, the Korean War serves as an example of the strengths and weaknesses of a security system based on forward, collective, and conventional defense, reinforced by the deterrent influence of nuclear weapons of varied destructive capabilities and delivery systems. Despite the fact that no twentieth-century president had taken office (or would take office) with more direct experience in foreign policy, the Korean War illustrated just how little personal influence Eisenhower had on the war's causes, conduct, and consequences. Using recently released American and Chinese documents, Zhai explains in "Crisis and Confrontation: Chinese-American Relations during the Eisenhower Administration" why Beijing viewed the United States as a primary enemy hostile to China's revolution and its unification with Taiwan. In detailing Eisenhower's foreign policy objectives regarding communist China, he highlights the differences between policy makers in Washington and Beijing, specifically showing why Mao Tse-tung and his associates considered America's actions antagonistic. Just as our military and civilian leadership strove to understand other cultures as they struggled to win the Cold War, so must America's current and future leadership strive to understand other cultures if we hope to win the war against terrorism. As general and president, Eisenhower took great interest in the intellectual development of the officer corps, asserting the importance of both professional military education and advanced education at the best civilian institutions. His remarkable legacy of domestic and international leadership endures within Forging the Shield, an important work that Airmen should read and emulate.
Dr. Roy F. Houchin II
Maxwell AFB, Alabama
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|Author:||Houchin, Roy F., II|
|Publication:||Air & Space Power Journal|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2007|
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